BY CHINWE EDOGA.
An unranked Nigeria’s Anuoluwapo Juwon Opeyori has won this year’s Men’s singles event of the Ivory Coast International Badminton Tournament which ended in Abidjan on Sunday.
He was the best among 65 players from 11 countries across the world.
The allure of Nigeria’s performance was that there were three Nigerians among the four on the podium for the Men’s singles title. Not just that it was almost a clean sweep by Nigeria in the Mixed Doubles Event.
The pair of Enejoh Abah and Peace Orji defeated another Nigerian pair of Gideon Babalola and Uchechukwu Ukeh 21-18; 21-18 thus making Nigeria to win gold and silver medals.
Another Nigerian pair of Jafar Salih Umar and Zainab Momoh won the bronze medal along with Ghana’s Emmanuel Yaw Donkor and Stella Kote Amasah.
In all, the Nigerian contingent won two gold, two silver and four bronze medals.
In the Men’s Singles title, Nigeria’s Opeyori beat Jordanian Bahaedeen Ahmad Alshannik 21-18; 21-16 in the keenly contested final duel to give the Francis Orbih’s board of the Badminton Federation of Nigeria (BFN), a winning start.
When it was becoming a near impossibility for Nigeria to send a team, Francis Orbih, the BFN president-elect had to swing into action and successfully got sponsorship package from the Lagos State Government to send a 25-man Nigerian team to the tournament.
An elated Orbih told Sports Village Square that he could not wait to be sworn in before swinging into action as he had promised to raise the standard of badminton during his tenure.
He along with his board members and the boards of other sports federations will be sworn in next week Monday in Abuja.
“I am really grateful to Governor Ambode for his magnanimity in sponsoring the team despite a very short notice given to him.
“Little wonder, things are working in Lagos as an action man is at the helms.
“I am sure, he will be very glad that his efforts have not been in vain”, remarked Orbih.
He told the Sports Village Square, that he would not have allowed vacuum to occur by waiting to be sworn in before ensuring the attendance of a Nigerian team in an international tournament that will not only give them good exposure, but also help in the overall ranking of Nigerian players.
He concluded that it would have amounted to big disservice, if he had failed to facilitate the performance of the Nigerian team in Abidjan. The team will move to Benin Republic to begin another campaign for honours on Wednesday.
He was particularly elated at the success of Anuoluwapo Opeyori, a player he personally discovered as the chairman of Lagos State Badminton Association.
“Our participation in the West Africa Badminton Circuit was preceded by a three-week closed camp for the 27 Nigerian players made up of nine female and 18 male players.
“We can see what camping does to players, instead of merely calling them up for trips to tournaments’, said Orbih.
On his way to glory, Opeyori beat Ghana’s Abraham Ayittey 22-20; 21-19 before having to face a Nigerian, Habeeb Temitope Bello in the next round. He won 21-19; 21-16.
His most challenging game was against Nigeria’s Gideon Babalola, pointing out the great strength of the Nigerian team. It was perhaps, Opeyori’s toughest match. He lost the first game 15-21 and was leading the second 6-3 before Babalola scratched owing to injury.
He then moved on to dispatch Ghana’s Daniel Sam 27-25; 21-11 to move to the final.
Opeyori was not the only successful Nigerian at the tournament. The duo of Clement Krobakpo and Gideon Babalola are joint third place winners in the men’s singles event. In badminton, the two semi final losers are automatic third place winners.
In the women’s singles, Nigeria’s Dorcas Ajoke Adesokan, ranked 296 in the world, was a third place winner with Egypt’s Hadia Hosny who is number 87 in the world.
In women’s doubles, the Nigerian duo of Zainab Momoh and Peace Orji were final losers to India’s Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker. The score lines were 21-11; 21-14 in favour of the Indians. Nigeria however won the silver while another Nigerian pair of Patricia Apusugh and Amin Yop Christopher won the bronze medal.